Workers Need a Museum

New Jersey came early to the fight with anti-union and anti-public school governors. Gov. Chris Christie reduced funding to public schools and attacked union leaders. Other governors are fighting against collective bargaining and want to destroy the unions.

I have been in the NJEA for 45 years and have seen the benefits of collective bargaining. I have witnessed much of the history of the labor movement and want future generations to learn about how workers struggled to gain their rights. In 1886, 1,572 strikes including 600,000 workers took place.

Where is the museum for the labor movement in Washington, D. C.? I have written to Wayne Clough, the secretary of Smithsonian Institution, asking to use the Arts and Industries Building for a museum showing the history of the unions. As unions are weakened, apprentice training programs are reduced.

Early tradesmen brought their sons into their shops, and later, they allowed other young boys to serve as apprentice. The girls came much later.

Now, the Department of Labor works with the local employers to conduct apprentice training programs for their new employees. The building trades and other unions also provide apprentice training programs.

The apprentices are paid for their on-the-job training at their worksites, while attending evening classes at the vocational and technical high schools. Future high school graduates will lose these opportunities for skill training and never know the advantages of being skilled workers.

Workers have died to get shorter work weeks, safe work conditions, employment for women, jobs for immigrates and minorities, and other benefits. Their stories must be told to guide the workers who are now fighting for workers’ rights. Please consider the rich history of the union movement for the displays in the Arts and Industries Building. Mention this idea at your union meetings and let Wayne Clough know that workers want their own museum.

Rowland Hall Kimberlin
Edison, N.J.

Take the Battle to the Ballot

How lovely it was to read Bernard Dalsey’s letter, “Reform Voting Methods” [6/1/11 TPP]. If he were in Michigan I could conceivably kiss him.

I have a suggestion to add for achieving instant runoff voting and proportional representation and that is to attack at state level. What fun it would be to gather signatures to put IRV and PR and single-payer health care and mass transit and many other good things on the ballot for the people to vote on. We could even save the bees by banning pesticides. Kiefer Sutherland should be invited to tell us how his grandfather gave health care to the people of Saskatchewan and was voted the “greatest Canadian!”

What group will take on this project in Wisconsin and Michigan? Before I forget, we must also decommission our nuclear power plants.

Regina McNulty
Oak Park, Mich.

No Civil War Revisionism

As Bill Hairston of Alabama [in “Civil War Still Isn’t Over,” 6/1/11 TPP] questioned my historical honesty and facts in my “Enough Treason from South Carolina” (5/1/11 TPP) article, I feel obligated to reply. Hairston calls my reference to Robert E. Lee as “Commanding General of the Confederacy” an “unfactual fact.”

I will just point out this fact – Lee was promoted on Jan. 31, 1865, to “General in Chief of Confederate Forces” – he was no longer just Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

“In 1860,” (he claims), “the question of secession was up in the air,” as was the status of the Confederacy as treasonous and illegitimate. Let me direct my neo-confederate friend to Article I, Section 10 of the US Constitution where it clearly states “No state shall enter into any … confederation.”

South Carolina seems to have taken the constitution seriously in 1832 when President Andrew Jackson met the state’s threat to secede with a promise of armed invasion if they tried. Question of secession? I don’t think so!

Mr. Hairston seems to believe an attack by South Carolina militia on the ship Star of the West, a civilian vessel delivering military supplies to a US Army fort, was not an act of war. Interesting – that kind of argument could put a whole new light on German U-Boats, WWI, WWII and civilian ships. Ever hear of the Lusitania?

But I do agree with Mr. Hairston that by 1861 slavery was national in scope. With the Fugitive Slave Act and Dred Scott decision, free states believed they were being forced to cooperate in the “South’s peculiar domestic institution” and had resisted at times with violence.

Today the Civil War has been described as “America’s war without end.” A new battle is being waged with mainly Southern political conservatives leading the charge against “big government,” while attempting to create a theocratic state — a limited voting population with a denial of any past connection to slavery.

You questioned the motives of my great grandfathers who served in the Union Army. I only wish I could have asked them their motives for serving their country but I would suggest to you my “scorn” for the confederacy and their modern day brothers and sisters would not be as strong as it is if I had not inherited through my family a strong sense of moral right and wrong. I might point out as well that both of them lived long productive lives as union members and strong advocates of political freedom in both Washington State and California. I would suggest that even as young men they knew what they were fighting for.

Bill Johnston
Tacoma, Wash.

No Slack for Obama

I was angered by your editorial [“Keep Palaver Palatable,” 6/15/11 TPP] giving Obama yet another benefit of the doubt. I found your statement that: “Obama and the Democrats pulled the economy out of a tailspin” a laughable moment. I won’t go into the litany of betrayals this “vacuous opportunist” has committed, but George Bush Redux sums it up neatly. But, much of this anger should be directed at myself! Yes. I probably will vote for him as the pathetic “lesser-of-two-evils.” Because, I guess, we are all Adolph Eichmanns in the final analysis — simply doing our duty and voting for a murderer and war criminal when I should be committing civil disobedience to protest the slaughter of innocent 13-year-old girls and their parents by Obama’s drone attacks.

I’ll vote for him so that the right-wing fascists don’t cause any more discomfort in my privileged American life-style. Our docility in the face of home-bred state terrorism is a bloody shame. ... No! we should not “Keep Palaver Palatable” but rather raise the roof with our outrage.

Al Salzman
Fairfield, Vt.

Banana Republicans

The agenda of the GOP for these United States, is the creation of a banana republic, without the bananas, wherein the wealthy elite with their private jets and 6,000-square-feet mansions dine on caviar, while the rest of us in 300-square-feet “shotgun” shacks subsist on dog-food, when affordable.

Lamar Wray
Eupora, Miss.

Military is All-Consuming

As Blum & Cohen (“Military Spending Eats Budget”) and R.J. Eskow (“Bin Laden Hit Leaves Hangover”) point out [6/1/11 TPP], the military/intelligence budget is the cowbird that is pushing all our social programs out of the nest. The “trillion-dollar national security monolith” is destroying Americans’ safety net as education, healthcare and social services are cut to fund its ever-increasing budget. The 2012 budget gives an incredible 60% of all US discretionary spending to this monolith.

Unfortunately, because national security is “off the table,” Murphy’s Law applies – work expands to absorb the available funds. And if funding is unrestricted the work multiplies infinitely. “1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies” working on intelligence?! These numbers indicate that reason has been lost already, that mindless spending has metastasized and is consuming the US economy and life as we know it.

The predictions of Yale Professor Paul Kennedy, in his 1987 book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, are now coming true. Before our eyes the American Empire is self-destructing just as imperial Spain and the British Empire both collapsed after pouring all their vast wealth into military expansion.

John Stickler
Murrieta, Calif.

Imperial Whitman

R.J. Eskow, in his cover story [6/1/11], “Ben Laden Hit Leaves Hangover,” quotes Walt Whitman’s noble sentiment: “My enemy is dead, a man divine as myself.”

Then he praises the poet’s profound spirituality and nonsectarian, Christ-like vision. However, we should remember that Whitman’s only “enemy” whom he called “divine as myself’ was other white Americans who died during the War Between the States.

And, lest we forget — that same renowned poet promoted the Mexican-American War during the early days of that conflict, when he wrote in the Brooklyn Eagle:

“Yes, Mexico must be thoroughly chastised!.. Let our arms now be carried with spirit which shall teach the world that, while we are not forward for a quarrel, America knows how to crush, as well as how to expand.”

That so many respected Americans have praised Yankee imperialism is, in my opinion, a moral blemish on our nation’s


David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

Cantor Insensitivity Belongs Up Front

I am disappointed in the coverage TPP gave in the 6/15/11 “Dispatches” section to the item entitled “GOP Sees Opportunity in Joplin Crisis,” where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that before Congress approves federal funds for disaster relief it had to offset the relief spending with cuts to other programs.

This inhuman and unconscionable statement by the number two person in the House of Representatives should have been a page 1 rather than a page 23 story.

It has been a no brainer with both political parties that victims of disasters in our country should receive governmental help. Playing politics with the lives of victims of a killer tornado appears to be inconsistent with the values of any civilized society.

Congressman Cantor’s statement evinced an insensitivity, lack of compassion, and lack of basic human decency towards innocent victims faced with tragic circumstances, attitudes that have recently permeated the Republican Party and may jeopardize many governmental programs including Medicare and Social Security.

Edward L. Koven
Highland Park, Ill.

Editor Notes: Cantor made the comments as we were going to press, so we thought we were doing well to get it in the paper at all, but this is a good illustration of why you should always read all the way to page 23!

Dylan at 70

The voice of his generation,” Bob Dylan wasn’t of it. Dylan is 70. That gave him a five-year head start on the Baby Boomers.

Dylan chose self-exile from comforts of the familiar. He was driven by a star complex that events proved perfectly justified. When the demographic tsunami of Boomers faced the dispossession, the alienation of leaving home for the first time, Dylan told them how it felt.

With his keening wail and keener observation, Dylan’s art was less music than opinion.

The enormity of the audience turned his epic poems epochal.

Sixties artists strove to be “relevant” (by which they mostly meant “trendy”).  Dylan’s symbiosis with the subsequent generation remains relevant.

The Boomer Generation was a demographic Ponzi scheme.

The disinheritance they experienced entering adulthood will return for many Boomers in retirement. The schemers at the top of the pyramid will exploit the usual fault lines — ethnicity and gender, blue collar vs. white, public sector vs. private, first-half Boomers against second — to keep us at each other’s throats.

To quote the once and future bard, “It’s a hard ...  It’s hard ... It’s a HARD RAIN gonna fall!”

Minneapolis, Minn.

Lots of Snakes in School Tests

Gene Lyons’ 5/1/11 column [“Michelle Rhee Sells Education Snake Oil”] rang a (school) bell with me. A few years ago, I took a job grading tests for a Twin Cities-area testing company. Throughout the six months I did it before quitting in disgust, it became clear that the company had to grade at certain minimum levels so the schools could continue receiving their public funding.

We were constantly reminded of this by the company test-scoring monitors and once, an official of the Louisiana Department of Education came to emphasize this point in person. I thought this was total fraud, not to mention cheating the students.

But the company, local media and public officials in Minnesota and Louisiana were not interested; no one in Louisiana answered my emails and my Congresspeople had no response, either.

Some highly degreed test scorers, unable to find job in their often arcane fields of study, were forced to make this an $11.50-an-hour default career with no benefits and no hope of promotion.

To say they were degraded, embarrassed and many severely depressed would be an understatement.

This story remains largely untold but maybe Mr. Lyons will pursue it in on a national scale.

I should think legit testing companies, Congressional education leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder and state AGs, not to mention President Obama and Mrs. Obama would want this mess cleaned up.

Willard B. Shapira
Roseville, Minn.

From The Progressive Populist, July 1/15, 2011


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